It’s now six months to go until the 2011 ‘all-out’ Swale council elections – the most important local elections for many years.
I have suggested to my colleagues that we put together our manifesto. We should ask ourselves – if the Liberal Democrats won 24 council seats (!) and took control of Swale council, what would we do? I would like us to produce a short document setting out our ideas. (Ideally this document would go through every door in Swale but of course that won’t happen).
Naturally we won’t win 24 seats – it’s proving difficult to get 24 candidates – but a document of ideas will show we have the energy and enthusiasm to get our message across.
The idea of a manifesto is shamelessly stolen from Swale UKIP (link below) who have come up with the interesting proposal of a devolution of power to Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham and greater influence for parish councils. This division of power down to another level is, dare I say it, quite liberal, and I think is one we can support. My main reservation is that Swale already has a large number of committees (29! For only 47 councillors!) and I hope this would not mean three planning committees, three standards etc unless we offloaded some of those in existence.
Sittingbourne and Sheppey Labour meanwhile are dozing along, happily celebrating Lib Dem setbacks, yet to wake up to the fact that it is the Tories who are in control. Labour would be very happy if they wiped us out – even if it meant sitting in opposition surrounded by Tories for another four years.
Labour need to win 14 seats to control the council. They will make some gains but I don't think they will make enough. If we were to work together, then we might pick off enough Conservative seats between us to deny the Tories a majority and set up a Lab-Lib Dem administration. Unfortunately that won’t happen.
I expect the Conservatives will repeat their ‘no campaigning’ policy which has been so successful in recent years. And, let’s face it, with Labour unwilling and the rest of us unable to provide strong opposition then Conservative control for many years looks assured – and that is bad news for Swale.
But let us not be downhearted. We few, we happy few, (we very few) will give it our best shot. After all, six months is a long time in politics.
STOP PRESS: As I was typing this, I am happy to report that I have been invited to Ceredigion to a Hustings in a few weeks to find a Liberal Democrat candidate for the Welsh Assembly elections. I am now busy preparing and am very much looking forward to my visit.